For the second time in less than a week, the Royals and Tigers will meet for a three-game series. The time passed since that meeting hasn't lessened what's at stake.
Kansas City took two of three from American League Central-leading Detroit then, and after taking two of three from Cleveland, the Royals sit right in the thick of the postseason race. But they'll have their hands full on Friday night, as the Tigers will have Justin Verlander on the hill.
But the perfect answer could be veteran lefty Bruce Chen, who's coming off working seven innings of two-run ball against the Tigers. He's allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last three starts and has two straight quality starts.
"After the last game I pitched against Detroit, we went in and we had a game plan," Chen said. "I think [pitching coach] Dave Eiland really recognized things that we could do today, things that we did a little bit different. I have to face them again, so I am just going to try to keep everything the same and change my speeds and different arm angles."
One of the big focuses was shutting down Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, who went a combined 0-for-6 against Chen.
"They are probably the two best players in the big leagues," Chen said. "Their whole lineup revolves around them. The guys in front of them get on base, and they become more dangerous. I think we did a really good job of changing speeds and making sure that they were not comfortable in the box."
One can excuse Royals hitters if they end up feeling the same.
Verlander owns a 15-5 career mark against Kansas City, though he has yet to pick up a win against the Royals in five games this season. He allowed four runs on eight hits in seven innings with seven strikeouts.
Royals: Skipping Duffy in the rotation
The Royals on Thursday get their first off-day in over three weeks. They've decided to use the break to revamp their rotation going into the final 16 games of the season.
Danny Duffy, who was scheduled to start on Friday in Detroit, will be skipped in favor of Chen. Right-handers Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie will finish out the weekend series.
Duffy's started five games since returning from Tommy John surgery last May, so resting him was also a priority.
"You're always planning," manager Ned Yost said. "It moves everybody up now, but it moves everybody up at the end, too, which allows us to have [ace] James Shields available for a playoff game -- another reason we did it, too. It benefits Duffy and just solidifies the rotation going through the last two and a half weeks of the season."
Tigers: Downs gets surprise call
Darin Downs enjoyed a relaxing Monday back home in Florida when he received a call from the Tigers.
Though he's been on the 40-man roster all season, he wasn't called up when the rosters expanded on Sept. 1, nor when Triple-A Toledo's season ended.
"They just thought it might be good to have another lefty," manager Jim Leyland said.
Since Aug. 1, Downs has allowed just one earned run on seven hits over 13 1/3 innings.
• Royals closer Greg Holland is 6-for-6 in save opportunities against the Tigers this season, yielding no earned runs in eight innings. He's held hitters to a .083 batting average in those games.
• Cabrera is hitting .405 (15-for-37) with three doubles, five home runs and 11 RBIs against Chen.
AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.